The pain in our lives has shaped us to be the people the Lord desires us to be and to fulfill the plan the Lord desires of us. Pain is part of the process that helps us make progress. I have no idea what you’ve had to endure in your past or perhaps are enduring right now. I am definitely not saying the Lord made you go through those things. However, I am saying the Lord is using those things, regardless of what they are or how they came about, to bring you closer to Him and closer to the person/leader He wants you to be. He can use the pain in your life to place in you the key ingredients necessary to make you the leader He’s called you to be.
I had a grandmother named Mawmaw Eggie - at least that’s what all us grandkids called her. Mawmaw Eggie made some of the very best cornbread you could ever wrap your lips around. It was crispy; it was buttery; it was delicious! She made it in a cast iron skillet and baked it to perfection. I can almost taste it – I wish I could taste it right now!
She passed away several years ago. I missed her, of course; I really missed her cornbread, too. Every year at family gatherings we would talk about that cornbread. My mom would try to reproduce it. Her cornbread was good, don’t get me wrong… but it just wasn’t quite the same as Mawmaw Eggie’s. She couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t turn out the same. Somehow, she felt certain she was missing something. She kept trying different things and different ways and one day, she finally figured it out. My mom got the right combination of the right ingredients to make my grandmother’s cornbread…and that cornbread was really good – as good as Mawmaw Eggie’s!
Ingredients are very important. One wrong ingredient can completely change the end result. The correct ingredients are essential. Having the proper ingredients in a leader's life is critical if you are seeking a specific end result. You have to understand you were made for an intended purpose in the Kingdom of God. Yes, you were made for a unique, intentional purpose.
It’s sort of like a key that fits into a lock. You are the only person that can fulfill the perfectly shaped purpose you were designed to fulfill. Here’s the deal, though. You weren’t necessarily born that way. You may have been born with some of it, but not all of it. It is actually life that equips you. The good things in life and also the pain of life give you the key ingredients to be that man or woman of God He’s called you to be.
Think about the Apostle Peter. Peter fulfilled his mission even after failing miserably. His failures actually taught him some important things in life. They gave him some of the key ingredients he had to have in order to become an intricate part of the Kingdom of God. Wild-man Simon Peter, the man who was a loose cannon at times, later became a trusted apostle in the church. He became a man people listened to, looked up to and respected. He was a tremendous example of growth and temperance, accomplished through the pain of his life.
II Peter 1:5 says: “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith…”
Let’s stop there for a minute – “add to your faith…” Faith means you have complete trust or confidence in someone or something. This one phrase tells me I can have complete trust and confidence in Jesus Christ, the one true God... and it’s not enough? Complete faith in Christ alone is just not going to cut it? Really, Peter? Yet, here we hear Peter saying to us all - listen up people! You must help yourselves. You have to take advantage of some of the opportunities the Lord has provided for you to learn, opportunities He’s provided for you to grow. Even the tough opportunities... even the painful opportunities...they are from Him.
II Peter 1:5-7: “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.”
When you are talking about things like virtue and knowledge and temperance and patience and love, these things don’t come easy. These growth and learning experiences are sometimes very extremely painful.
II Peter 1:8: “For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Do you know what barren means? Barren means something or someone is too poor to produce anything. Barrenness is bleak; it is lifeless. We all know those people in our lives. These are the individuals who just seem lifeless. They are not producing anything worth talking about. They are not making any progress in any area of their lives. They have no joy. They have no peace or contentment. Their lives don't seem to be leading to anything. Their existence is bleak - it’s unfruitful - it’s lifeless. It is barren.
If we can be honest with ourselves right now, it’s amazing how often we, too, can find ourselves in this same or a similar situation. We feel like we have no fruit in our lives. We are existing but not really living. We are just going through the motions. We love God with all of our hearts, yet there’s something about life that’s just missing. Have you ever been there before?
Read II Peter 1:8 again: “For if these things be in you, and abound (or thrive), they make you that he shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
It’s promised! You are not going to be barren. You are not going to be unfruitful. Peter is saying there are certain ingredients every one of us must pursue in the power of the Spirit. If you add to your faith these things - if you work hard to grow - if you’re not passive in your approach to God - it will happen. If you don’t just rely on your faith, instead pursuing some of these hard and painful things in your life, you will find effectiveness. You will produce some amazing things for the Kingdom!
I want you to notice how Peter brings together God’s work and our responsibility. God calls us, God saves us, God gives us everything we need for life. Yet, at the same time, He calls us to act. He calls us to embrace these hard things. He says for this very reason “…add to your faith… virtue and knowledge and temperance…” and the list goes on.
These are key ingredients to life. That cornbread just ain’t gonna come out quite right if you don’t have certain key ingredients in it. Many times, these key ingredients come through hard and painful things in our lives. These key ingredients will keep you anchored to the calling and election God has placed before you.
In 2007, I was in the middle of removing some of the negative ingredients of my life. I was in counseling. I was learning about approval addictions and learning about unforgiveness I carried with me most of my life. I was learning how to effectively communicate with my wife. I was truly learning all sorts of things. At that time, though, I didn’t really understand the big picture of what God was trying to do in my life. It was really hard and painful stuff. I knew the Lord was directing me down that road; I just didn’t understand it all.
I felt like I was a man after God’s heart. I loved God. I gave him my time and my energy and my finances and my resources. I had faith. Still, though, there was something missing. I couldn’t put my finger on it, I just knew I was not feeling as complete as what scripture said I should be feeling, as complete in Him as I wanted to be. Full of faith, God was leading me on a journey to incorporate some other key ingredients in my life. I was adding to my faith…
I didn’t realize it then, yet I can look back on it now and realize God brought me on that journey. He was adding those key ingredients to my life, all for the purpose of learning to more effectively love Him and serve Him. He also wanted me to learn how to more effectively love others. He was shaping me and molding me, preparing me for the tasks ahead of me. I am still on that journey. Sometimes it is still not all pleasant. There are painful things I go through even now and painful things I will go through in the future. It is all for His Kingdom.
I’m not sure what you’ve had to endure in your past or are having to endure right now. As I said before, I’m definitely not saying the Lord made you go through those things. However, I can say the Lord is using those things, regardless of what they may be or how they got there. He is using that pain in your life to make you a better man or woman of God for the purpose He has set before you.
I encourage to spend a few minutes in prayer and reflect on how the Lord is using pain in your life to add to your faith. In the next few days, ponder this question. When you settle on the answers, right them down and remember He is at work in you!
What key ingredients is He adding to your life through these situations?
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